Some people say it can’t be done—registering the copyright in a blog. It can, if you understand the quirks of the US Copyright Office.
I explained those quirks in September 2014 when Nina Amir asked me to write a post about protecting website and blog content. See, How to Protect Your Blog Content.
In that post, I explained that there are a few tricks to registering web content. Without knowing these tricks, you are likely to run into a bureaucratic brick wall.
First, a little refresher about copyright. You do not need to register a copyright for it to be valid. You can send a DMCA takedown notice without registering your work. But registration gives you additional legal remedies in the event your work is infringed. For more about copyrights, see my post 11 Things Every Writer Should Know About Copyright.
Trick 1: The Copyright Office Considers Web Content to be Unpublished.
This surprised me. I spent a good 45 minutes discussing it with a senior registration specialist at the Copyright Office. But as of late 2014, the Copyright Office was still using a definition of “published” that dates back to the disco era, the 1980s. To them, “published” means the distribution of tangible material, typically printed.
Obviously, this is confusing to those of us living in the 21st Century. After all, nothing is more widely distributed than web content. When you upload posts through WordPress or Blogger, you click Publish. But as far as the Copyright Office is concerned, web content is a display, not a publication.
Trick 2: Register Your Posts as a Collection of Unpublished Works as a Single Claim
Here’s the benefit of calling your web content unpublished: you may register multiple blog posts under one application (and one fee) as a “collection of unpublished work.” If you tried to register blog posts as published work, you would have to submit a separate application and fee for each post because an application may cover work published in a single day only.
I recommend you register your blog posts at the end of each year, so that all the materials in the application are created in the same year. Some lawyers recommend writers register blog posts every three months, so all posts are registered within three months following their release. That way, if a judge disagrees with the Copyright Office and decides that blogs posts are published, writers get the benefits of prompt registration. The choice is up to you; registering posts every three months is more time and money for more protection, at least theoretically.
On Nina Amir’s blog, I walked through the application form in detail.
On the day you submit the online application, go to your online blog and print out all the blog posts you are registering. Yes, that may be fifty or a hundred pages. If that is too voluminous, click on Deposit Copy Requirements for alternatives.
Your printed pages must show a date no later than the date of your application. If they show a later date, the Copyright Office may reject your application.
Mail the printed copy of your blog posts with the Shipping Slip to the address on the Shipping Slip. Since it may be 7 to 10 months before you hear from the Copyright Office, you might want to send the copy registered mail, return receipt requested. I have had a deposit lost by the copyright office, so I recommend you retain some evidence of shipping the deposit.
I expect someday the Copyright Office will recognize their definition of published is outdated and confusing, but until then, this process should work for registering your blog posts and website content.
Remember that none of these measures stop theft. There will always be people looking for get something for nothing. But registering your web content will give you additional leverage for stopping infringement and the opportunity to recover monetary damages when it happens.SHARE THIS